Thursday, January 31, 2013

Danny McCook - Class of 1961

Danny was Kendall’s older brother and he passed away a few days ago.  I didn’t know him at EH and only shared the halls with him for one year.  However, as one of the little kids, a Sophomore when he was a Senior, I did see him in the locker room as we suited up for football practice each day during fall 1960.  He was a serious, quiet kid who exuded with his demeanor, a comfortable competence.

Danny went on to earn his second EH letter that year, All-District Honorable Mention honors, as well as NHS, WHO’s WHO, Favorite finalist, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.  I’m sure there were other honors that probably escape me.

More recently, summer 2010, as I first started experimenting on FaceBook, there was Danny, already there…I asked him to be my “friend” and told him a little about what I was doing.  He graciously took me on as one of his friends and introduced me to his circle of online friends.  With his FB endorsement, everyone accepted me.  And so, Gus was off and running in FaceBook…to the amusement of some, and to the frustration of others.

Perhaps it was that Danny was an Engineer, like me, that we hit it off.  He was very cordial, yet reserved, and willingly answered every question I threw his way, as well as sharing not only his knowledge of the area, but some fine photos and documents from his personal collection.  Those bits of information added significantly to my and now many others’ knowledge of our childhood turf…the Meadowbrook/Eastern Hills section of Ft. Worth c.1956-1963.

Danny carried much or all of the online load in getting his 1961 Class 50th reunion together; like Lynn Spain, another Engineer had done for the 1960, First EH graduating class a year earlier.  And he worked diligently at it.

As this Highlander blog grew, Danny was a steady and welcome supporter of the undertaking.  His recommendation to others helped spread the word of its existence and assisted further growth.  But more importantly, his encouragement gave me valuable feedback that its tone and direction was worthwhile.  You see, I respected Danny’s opinion and gave it substantial weight.

As he conducted his online communications with others, it was clearly apparent that he deeply loved his brother, Kendall.  Not only was his love expressed in comments, it was wonderfully expressed by the photos he chose to share with others…those below, among them.

 My last communication with him was just this past Thanksgiving when he sent a copy of Kendall’s fine 2009 tribute to our Class of 1963 fallen gentle giant, Leo Luebbehusen.  The exchange opened one more meaningful opportunity for exchanging information about our East Side days.  It follows:

Nov. 21, 2012

Danny:  My Brother Kendall wrote this nice tribute to Leo when he passed away a couple of years ago.  Thought you would appreciate it.

Gus:  Thanks, Danny and please thank Kendall for sharing his memories.  Everyone he mentions were close friends of mine, also.  Most of his memories in this piece are of shortly after we left EH.

I clearly recall Kendall's hellfire and brimstone approach to sports and recall that he didn't play football after MJH but did continue with baseball and basketball.

May I publish it in the blog?

And may I use a recent picture of Kendall for illustration or would he prefer I use a young one?

Danny:  I am sure he wouldn't mind your using it.  I am attaching a good picture.

Kendall sprained his ankle playing basketball in Junior High and as a result had some back trouble.  Back then there was a knee-jerk reaction by Doctors to do a spinal fusion on the 4th vertebrae.  He had the TCU team Doctor but the operation was pretty botched and he got a staph infection that it took 20 years to shake.  He really could never play after that.  He was a really gifted pitcher and quarterback and could make it from half court about half of the time.  He has suffered with his back most of his life and is almost crippled now with it.

Gus:  posted here 

Danny:  Thanks - very nice

Gus:  A couple of questions, if you can answer them...where did you and Kendall go to elementary school....Sagamore Hill?  I've seen Kendall at Meadowbrook Elementary in the 5th or 6th grade class pictures, but not before that (abt. 1955-57) Would you think Kendall might still have that picture of he and Larmer, Dillard, Tate, and Leo out at Lake Arlington in 1983 for their last meeting he writes about?

Dec. 3, 2012

Danny:  We moved to the East Side between my 7th and 8th grades (1956).  I attended Daggett in the 7th grade and then Meadowbrook in the 8th and 9th grade.  Was fortunate to have the best government teacher Fort Worth probably produced - Billy Sills.  Kendall was 2 years younger so he would have gone to Meadowbrook elementary in the 6th grade then Meadowbrook in the 7-9 grades.  Kendall was a great drop back quarterback.  He and Roby Morris made many a long connection and I think won the city championship.

Here is the picture you mentioned and another of Kendall's championship basketball team (he would have been in the 8th grade I think).  Coach Blocker was a cousin of Dan Blocker of Bonanza fame.  His favorite imploring for the basketball players was "Boy, you couldn't hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle."

Had another exchange with Danny last August while he was out with his son on a bird hunt...another glimpse of his humor....

Monday, January 28, 2013

First Steps

Here's ol' Gus either about to take his first solo steps, or pretty close to them.  In carefully looking at this picture just now, for the first time in nearly 67-years, I saw something new to father's WWII AAF wings are pinned to my chest !  

Little more than a year before this picture, Dad was in the nose of a B-17 bound for Germany, hoping like hell they wouldn't blow him out of the sky.  That's Mom, the bobby soxer, helping out with a steady hand; she's 24 and had already soled sometime before this.  Pretty amazing to contemplate what has transpired between those first steps and this morning's. 

Send one of yourself in with a short description !

  Betty Jane DeVoe - a charmer

Alice Bretz - born with that winning smile

Kendall McCook - Always a cowboy?

Susan Begley - First Missing Tooth

Paul Shields - Confident

Tom Koebernick - Table Dancer !
I still have that belonged to my great grandmother.

 Sam Scott III - Always a serious kid

Sam's Dad (Sam II) flew Navy transports around the Pacific during WWII and afterward joined Panagra as a pilot.  This picture was most likely taken in South America where his Dad was based about this time.  Sam was a quiet kid, smart, and our finest '63 CLAN football player; a 3-year letterman in that sport and an All-District pick our 1962 championship season.  To me, he always seemed a little detached from our daily scrum, in a world of his own design.  Perhaps his younger years spent in other parts of the world settled on him a degree of sophistication that others of us had not yet attained, or ever would.  I was fortunate to count him as one of my closer friends--Gus.  

 Larry Guthrie & Danny McCoy - Humor's Genisis 
These two played off one another all the way through school.  I never knew they went this far back together.

Phil Vinson - Lawn Boy 
Phil’s in here by invitation and nominated as an honorary ’63 Highlander.  Although a Poly ’59, Phil’s contributions as an author, former S-T writer, UTA professor, photographer, to this blog, and as a noted East Side historian are impeccable.  If you don’t know of him, you should.  He was roaming around our neighborhoods and suffered through Meadowbrook Junior High (Creel Phillips, Jane Sheets, and probably that library lady that hated me) from its first year in 1953….a few years before us.
Judy - Age 2 - A beauty from the beginning.

Send one of yourself in with a short description !

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Best & Worst Dates

Now and then someone on Facebook will pose an interesting question such as today.  It was, What was the single best date you had in high school, and what was the single worst date you had?

My worst didn't take much thought, but my best escaped me for a few minutes, then returned.

Gus:  Hard to recall the best...guess I was lucky, they were all mostly very good. However, I did have a 90-second date that might qualify for the worst, if it had lasted any longer. In the days of bench front seats, it was kind of standard for your date to slide over right next to you. No seat belts in those days....horrors ! But it was nice to have her close and served as an early indicator of her mood. One sorority girl, a blind date I think, got in and pasted herself hard against the passenger side door as far away as she could get. I swear she must have had red imprints from the window and door knobs digging into her side ! By the first stop sign, she had not uttered a word. I made a right turn, followed by three more and delivered her back to the front door of the sorority house where I had picked her up....90-seconds earlier! "Let's not waste any more of each other's time," I say, and that was that.

Gus later:  Hold on, I do recall the best. A blind date lined up by a girl I had been dating, but she found me too "practical" for her taste; she, being someone who liked to party, sometimes with her drawers on her head...we were a little older by then. So, I go to the new girl's apartment to pick her up, the door cracks open just a bit, and I see two of the largest, brightest eyes I've ever seen peeking around from behind the door. Then, a blue furry hand puppet peers around the door, its large eyes joining hers. It was Grover. We were married a month see, I had a Cookie Monster puppet on my hand behind my back. That date has lasted 36-years now.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meadowbrook Elementary May Fete

Meadowbrook Elementary May Fete 1958

Cj64-Meadowbrook Elementary opened in 1935, initially as the Meadowbrook School, housing grades 1- 9 (there was no “K” in those days at the public school level in Fort Worth). A new junior high facility opened across the street in the fall of 1954, and Meadowbrook Elementary, grades 1-6, came into being at the original location, with a new principal, Tom Young.

Meadowbrook Elementary was a beautifully designed building (built by FDR’s Works Progress Administration), a two-story dark red brick with white trim featuring wings on either end angled 30 degrees toward the street. The wings contained the auditorium and the lunch room, respectively. The building faced Meadowbrook Drive to the north. The front lawn was both spacious and beautiful. The south campus was large enough for 4 baseball diamonds, and the west campus contained a football field and track.

The new administration decided sometime in that year to hold a celebration at the end of the school year to serve several purposes – honor the departing sixth graders, make use of the expansive front lawn, engage the parents in school activities, and probably, keep the kids distracted from the year-end itch to start the summer. So, the May Fete was born.

The word “fete” comes from Middle English and means “an elaborate outdoor party or celebration”, and that’s exactly what it was. The overall plan was to elect a King and Queen from the 6th grade along with 8 court attendees, presumably from the list of near-winners. They would sit on the front steps of the school (where all class pictures were taken) and would be flanked by the rest of the 6th grade. The remaining grades 1-5 and parents, brothers, and sisters would be seated around the perimeter of the front lawn. Each grade, in turn, beginning with the 1st grade, would perform a group dance to a tune unique to the grade to honor the 6th graders. The last dance would be the 6th grade performing a dance to a Mozart minuet from Don Giovanni to honor the school and the other grades.

The dances to be performed by grades 1-5 were formal folk dances. The students were grouped in 4 couples of 8, and performed the dances in unison. We would practice at least once a week for weeks prior to the event until we could do it very well. In looking back, I think the teachers performed miracles to get us to all do the same thing at the same time, but we knew it was important, and we cooperated. The 6th grade minuet was a beautiful thing to do, and to behold. Each year, the tunes for grades 1-5 would vary, but the 6th grade always performed Mozart’s minuet. It became something we aspired to. To cap the evening, the 6th grade attended a formal party given at the Meadowbrook Golf Course club house. The girls were arrayed in maybe their first formal gowns, the boys in (just as the song says) a white sport coat and a pink carnation (with black pants).

It was a memorable spring, day, and evening. Even 50+ years later it brings a smile to those who were there.

Everyone pictured above went on to be EH Class of '64.  That's our own Roby Morris in the foreground.


Gus Highlander ('63) -  Since I didn't attend Meadowbrook during my elementary schooling, I had no contact with this event, nor do I recall any mention of it when I did join the class at MJH a couple of years later.  However, since one of my focuses in this blog is to illustrate and attempt to explain some of the more peculiar facets of the East Side social order in those days, this is an interesting topic.  I'm aware that some folks who attended other elementary schools in the area were and remain envious or jealous or simply irked about this particular event and the image it projected.  Be that as it may, the May Fete did serve to introduce an entire school of youngsters to Mozart and the culture of gentle company at a very formative stage of their young lives.  A credible offset to the strains of, "You Ain't Nuthin' But A Houn' Dog" that was blasting through radios everywhere during those years.

Susan Begley ('63) - The May Day celebration was always such a big deal.  When it was our turn to dance around the May Pole (in fancy dresses of pastel colors), I was paired with Bruce McDonald -- because he was the only boy even close to as tall as I was -- towering at my present 5'4".  My favorite dance was the Maypole (If only those teachers had known of its pagan roots!)  I loved watching the colored ribbons weave a pattern down the pole.  But that might have been fifth grade, if indeed we danced the Mozart in 6th grade in our formals.  I wonder who the royalty was my year, or if it was invented the following year – I don’t remember, but I’m betting on Gay and maybe Steve. (That was 1957 – can hardly count how man years ago it was!)

Carol Ellis ('64) - I really can't remember how Life found out about the May Fete or why on earth they wanted to do a story on us.  After they took all the pictures on the day of the event, we thought it was all over.  But they called back a little while later and wanted to do a "cover shoot".  That's when my Dad had to bribe me with $5 !!  So, they came back and we went up to Oakland Park and spent several hours taking pictures.  They were really great.  But alas, there was a civil war going on in Lebanon and our cover got bumped in favor of the rebel pictures!  Just our luck.

1956 King & Queen (EHHS 1962):

This is an informal photograph taken of the 1956 Meadowbrook Elementary May Fete court who would later become members of the EHHS Class of 1962.

In front, Kellie Pelham was the queen and Bill Short was the king that year.  Kellie continued on with her class, became a MJH cheerleader and later a 1962 EHHS graduate.  Bill moved to Dallas with his family a couple of years after this picture was taken.

Margaret became a MJH cheerleader, Judy and Felton were EH cheerleaders, Doug was a star EH football player, and Gary was a varsity EH basketball player.  Most of them were EH honors graduates at EHHS.

1957 King & Queen (EHHS 1963):
Tate sez this was the highlight of his early school life.

1959 King & Queen (EHHS 1965):

Gus Note:  Other pictures and recollections sought of other May Fete celebrations.

Susan (Hunsaker) Craig ('65) - Brings back great memories.  We danced the Virginia Reel in 5th and B-I-N-G-O in 4th.

One of the more interesting aspects of doing this blog utilizing the amazing information resources available through the Internet is the ability to find or just stumble across images like this Life Magazine shot.  Although these aren't any of our classmates, the color image is accurate to the time.   

Finding color images of anything before about 1970 is difficult.  Capable cameras were expensive and color printing was expensive so, most folks just took black and white using cheap Brownies or, later through the 1960s, took color slides with their improving cameras.  Slide processing was cheap compared to color prints.  But the problem with slides is that they don't make very good color prints and unless the photographer was using Kodachrome, most of their color (prints and slides) from that time, has faded.

May 2013 Update:  Found in a Ft. Worth history group this picture taken about 1951 (+/-) of the D. McRae Elementary School and their graduating 6th grade class.  The school, seen in the background, was demolished in the 1980s and was a Poly feeder located SE of Poly HS.  Strongly suggests that the Spring May Fete was observed at a number of elementary schools in those days.

May 2014 Update: 
Nancy Yates - We did it at Littles Elementary, too. Out at Tate Springs.

Susan Coates Omi Mars - I remember it at Tandy

Sharon Kay Gibbs - We did it at Handley Elem. School too.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Irate Passenger - Cool Agent

Story borrowed from a Facebook posting...think I've heard this one before but, it's still funny:

It happened at a New York Airport. This is hilarious. I wish I had the guts of this girl. An award should go to the United Airlines gate agent in New York for being smart and funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo. For all of you out there who have had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for you.
A crowded United Airlines flight was canceled. A single agent was re-booking a long line of inconvenienced travelers.


Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."

The agent replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first; and then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."

The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?"

Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone. "May I have your attention, please?", she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at Gate 14 WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him with his identity, please come to Gate 14".

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United Airlines agent, gritted his teeth, and said, "F*** You!"

Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in line for that, too."

Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meadowbrook-Handley Little League

cj64. The Meadowbrook-Handley Little League opened for business in the spring of 1956. Before then, the closest little league was in Poly, called the East Side Little League. The league arranged to use two baseball diamonds located just north of Handley Field for the major league playing fields, and also scheduled minor league games at several of the elementaries.

Like every other little league, the players, based on tryouts, were drafted by the “major league” coaches, about 15 players per team. The “minor leagues” then drafted until all team positions were filled. I don’t know if any potential players were refused the opportunity to play on a team, but I assume a team was found for each of them. Major league players wore full uniforms; minor league players wore team T-shirts and caps.

In 1956 there were 4 major league teams – Yankees, Dodgers, Indians, and Cubs. The teams’ uniforms did not match their real counterparts. Although the uniforms were made of flannel, the piping, caps, and long socks color for each of these teams were green for the Yankees, blue for the Dodgers (their caps were blue with a red bill), maroon for the Indians, red for the Cubs. In 1957, the league added the Braves (orange), and Phillies (black).

During the years 1956-58, some of the volunteer fathers who coached these teams (their sons in parentheses) included the Yankees’ Ray McDuff, Walter Lund, DeRoy Lewis (Sparky, Bobby, Al); the Indians’ Mr. McMahon (J. D); the Dodgers’ Ted Blake (Randy); the Braves’ Mr. Roberts (Ken); and the Phillies’ Mr. Stanley (Dennis). 

Just a few of the notable players – Doug Brown, Sparky McDuff, Fred Culberson, Bobby Lund, Roby Morris, Mike Grizzard, Dale Mahan, Al Lewis, Jimmy Strong, Jimmy Hill, Duane Williams, Randy Blake, Jerry Taft, Wade Walker, Max Rhodes, Bill Short, Mike Liddle, J. D. McMahon, Chuck Alexander, Reggie Wilkins, Mike Cooper, Leo Luebbehusen, Ken Roberts, Kendall McCook, Dennis Stanley, Robby Rawdon.

Of special note was a 9-year old who made the Cubs in 1958 – Tommy Harmon (class of 1967); batted left, threw right. He later played QB for EHHS as well as baseball, played catcher for the University of Texas, and was assistant baseball coach at UT for many years.  (Gus notes these young players were mostly members of the EHHS classes of 1962-63-64 and they attended both of the Junior Highs...Meadowbrook and Handley).  A year later, 1957, many of these boys of East Side summer gathered together for the next season.

Gus note:  My 3-year brush with baseball took place in Richland Hills, about 5-10 miles north of the Meadowbrook-Handley teams shown in this article.  My years were 1955-56-57, ending upon entering Junior High at Richland just before transferring to Meadowbrook.  

A minor leaguer possessing no particular skills, I finally made the majors the last year.  What a difference...those 11-12 year old major league kids could play ball, where minors kind of dinked around !  I don't think very many 10-year olds were in the majors and only the best of the 11-year olds made it.  Like any other sport, it took some time to mature and gain the skills.  And oh, what a difference it made to play the game in uniforms instead of T-shirts !

I tried out for the EHHS team as a Soph, but spent much of my batting time diving for the dirt as the ball consistently appeared to be heading for my head.  Don't recall playing much that year and didn't go out for the team after that.  A couple of the guys had learned to throw curve balls by then....Mike Grizzard and Kendall McCook ! 

This group appears to be an All-Star team chosen from perhaps the 1957 Little League teams..all of them are represented by their uniforms.  Among those pictured are Max Rhodes ('63), Ronnie Hill, and Mike Henry ('62).  Ronnie attended EHHS one year and was the B-Team QB before moving away.  Mike was the QB of EHHS 1961 Highlanders, and Max was a 3-year letterman on the EHHS baseball team (1961-63) and the starting right end on the 1962 Highlander 4A-5 championship team.

A 1953 Lumberjacks Little League team from the East Side Poly league.  Of interest is Susie Wadlington's older brother, Pat; and Gay Burton's older brother, Ron, both of whom after a few more years of growing up and graduating from Poly, became U.S. Navy pilots.


Monday, January 07, 2013

Kim & Writing Well

William Safire had this pillow on his sofa.  As one of the country's premier 20th century writers, he was a master of the written word, a life-long student of the language and if I recall correctly, a fixture at the New York Times.  I love his irony.

Over the past few years that I’ve been posting to this blog many of my old classmates have written to say hello, share some memories, and contribute some photographs.  Some have taken the interest to figure out who I am, others haven’t, and others still, remain curious, but only mildly so.  I’m content with all those responses.

The blog has become a kind of central clearing agent for a lot of folks having a lot of different motivations and more importantly, differing viewpoints.  It’s been a fascinating and enlightening endeavor.  We were and remain a diverse group.

Kim Nelson, one of my favorite former EH classmates ventured in with a modest comment some months back.  Kim was a favorite of mine due to her always cheerful demeanor and she was sharp as a tack.  She’s sharper now.  There were several others like her that I tended to place into one of 3 distinct sub-groups—sports, academics, social.  Kim was in my academic sub-group, along with several others, some of whom are shown in the picture below.

Sometimes there were kids who were members of more than one sub-group, such as me.  But, there was no formal or even decipherable formula for inclusion in one of my sub-groups.  They just were.

In exchanging a few emails with Kim, I was immediately impressed with how finely she crafts her words.  Word choice, sentence structure, and thought are all of the first order.  Then I recalled the poem she wrote that was featured on the front page of one of our Senior year TARTANS.  That’s the one featured at right, above…she was showing writing genius even then, wasn’t she?

By our Senior year we already pretty well knew who our class academics were; but, then came the results of those special tests I never really understood.  You recall them, perhaps…the National Merit Scholarship and maybe one or two others.  I didn’t fare very well with them, but the group of academics shown below did.  Most of them were in my academic group where we rather anxiously compared grades after tests and report cards.

Kim was tall and had a great sense of humor.  I’m pretty sure she was crouched down in the picture below…she was taller than the others there.  And if you look closely at her expression, doesn't she have a mischievous look about her?  Her Dad was an Army combat commander during WWII and actively participated in the campaign north along the Italian peninsula toward Germany.  He was in the thick of it.

7/28/2016 update:  Kim tells me that she was stooping down to give Sells a pinch on the butt in the pic.

Interestingly, of this group, only one of them was a Summa grad and that was Dennis Withers at left.  Missing from the photo is Carolyn Almond, who for reasons I wouldn't know, wasn't in my mental file of class smarties, but the test revealed otherwise.  I understand that she is a member of MENSA and she is one of my Facebook Friends where we trade brief thoughts now and then; hers mostly light and pithy.